Program provides skills/tuition payment for Kentuckiana job seekers

Louisville, KY - By Janelle MacDonald - bio | email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The scramble to get jobs is a tough one and the length of time jobless workers are sitting on the sidelines is lengthening.

According to the Labor Department, 46-percent have been out of work for longer than six months. The Wall Street Journal reports half of those -- almost five million people -- haven't worked in a year. That's the worst since the government started keeping track.

In Louisville, Willie Lynch can tell you firsthand about the struggle.

"About this time last year, I lost my job with KFC," he said.

It wasn't that the former restaurant manager didn't want to work.

"I was putting in applications and had interviews," Lynch said. "I couldn't get a job no where in the restaurant business in management."

After more than 20 years in food-service, it was the only job Lynch really knew.

Executive director of KentuckianaWorks Michael Gritton says it's a pretty common story.

"A lot of people who have been left on the sidelines because of this big macroeconomic event may not have the skills that they're going to need for whatever job that's going to be created," Gritton said. "We continue to have a mismatch between what employers are looking for and what our workers are prepared to provide them."

Gritton says KentuckianaWorks has federal grant money to pay for jobless workers to go back and get the skills or education they need in growing fields.

Lynch took full advantage.

"The government was there," he said. "Like I say, people talk about the government being big, I'm like well it's there for me."

After no success at finding work for nine months, he took an aptitude test, found out he was suited for the medical field and within six weeks was a certified nurses assistant with a job at a local nursing home.

"That week was the first time in my life where I was actually turning down jobs at this point," lynch said.

At 47, he admits changing careers was scary.

"I'm going from the food service industry to a more technical in the medical field," he said. "I'm learning new terminology."

Now with a job he loves, he says it was worth it.

"I'm 47 and I'm like, 'Ok, now I've got a new outlook on life, I've got some skills that's needed and in demand and I have a job,'" said Lynch.

Gritton says out of the thousands who have lost their job in the last year, only about 500 have used that federal money at KentuckianaWorks.

It comes in the form of tuition voucher, so it can be used at a college, technical school, or in Lynch's case skills classes at the Red Cross. The main guideline is only that the money has to be used to gain a skill in a field that the government says is in demand.

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